Film - Feature | November 2 | 8 p.m. | Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
Funky screwball comedy in the key of queer is how critic B. Ruby Rich characterized The Watermelon Woman, the first feature of video artist/comedienne Cheryl Dunye. In it, Dunye plays a lesbian video-store clerk and would-be filmmaker who becomes obsessed with uncovering the history of a star of the early race films, the so-called Watermelon Woman. It develops that this mammy was a sister, as Cheryls research uncovers an affair with a white woman filmmaker à la Dorothy Arzner. The plot allows Dunye to incorporate a pastiche of footagefrom fabulous black-and-white plantation melodramas to interviews with real-life notables (including Camille Paglia) who bite the baitinto her very intelligent unraveling of cultural icons. Meanwhile, Cheryl takes up her own interracial romance, with a white customer (Guinevere Turner). Dunye has been compared to Yvonne Rainer in her style of personable self-referential disjunction, and to Isaac Julien for her cultural irreverence and absolute relevance.
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